If you’ve been on Iowa country roads or bike trails lately, you’ve probably seen plenty of goldenrods in bloom. You may also have seen today’s featured wildflower, especially in prairies or prairie remnants. After the jump I’ve posted several photographs of Stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum), a member of the aster family that is native to much of North America east of the Rocky Mountains.
I took most of these pictures during a recent visit to Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens, well worth seeing if you’re in the Ames area. The facility is best known for its incredible butterfly enclosure, containing dozens of tropical plants and hundreds of insect species not native to Iowa. For that reason, I was surprised to see a strip of native plants growing near the front entrance.
This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome. I’ll put up a separate thread later tonight or tomorrow morning with Iowa reaction to President Barack Obama’s televised address about the U.S. response to ISIS.
Most goldenrods are in the Solidago genus of the aster family, but stiff goldenrod was reclassified as part of the Oligoneuron genus. Apparently, that decision was controversial among botanists, and some authorities are still using the old species name, Solidago rigida.
The Minnesota Wildflowers site and the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden site describe the features of this plant in detail, using correct botanical terms. In layman’s terms, stiff goldenrod is easy to pick out, thanks to the “tall unbranched stem with the flat-topped clusters of goldenrod type flowers.”
The Illinois Wildflowers site explains how to distinguish this plant from other goldenrods:
1) the foliage is quite pubescent and light green, with a felty appearance; 2) the basal leaves are quite large, assuming that they haven’t withered away; 3) the inflorescence consists of erect bunches of flowers; it does not radiate outward, nor form a narrow wand; 4) the individual flowers are slightly larger than those of other goldenrods.
Stiff goldenrod blooms during the late summer and early fall, but the plant is distinctive long before the flowers open. I took this picture in mid-summer at a restored prairie in Dallas County. The bright pink blazing star flowers grab your attention. Some yellow or gray-headed coneflower are blooming in the background, and rattlesnake master are flowering in the middle of the blazing stars. The central stem of a stiff goldenrod is noticeable near the right of the picture; closed buds are clustered near the top of the plant.
Outside Reiman Gardens in early September, a stiff goldenrod in full bloom is next to one with buds just starting to open.
Several sources mention that stiff goldenrod does well in dry to moderate soils, but not as well in wet soils, where it can fall over or develop mildew on the leaves. You can see that mildew in the above photo, as well as in this shot of stiff goldenrod next to some kind of purple aster (I never can tell those apart).
Likewise, I don’t know which white aster species is growing around the stiff goldenrod in this shot:
Here stiff goldenrod is growing near some kind of false indigo, which bloomed long ago; the seed pods look like beans growing up the tall stem. I don’t know whether the dark pods to the right of the goldenrod are also a false indigo species.
The Illinois Wildflowers site discusses wildlife that use stiff goldenrod as a food source:
The flowers attract many kinds of insects, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and beetles. Monarch butterflies are especially attracted to the flowers. The caterpillars of several species of moths feed on various parts of this and other goldenrods (see Moth Table). Other insects that feed on this plant are Disonycta latifrons (Flea Beetle sp.), Microrhapala vittata (Leafminer Beetle sp.), Hesperotattix viridii (Spur-Throated Grasshopper sp.), and Corythucha marmorata (Lace Bug sp.). The Greater Prairie Chicken and Eastern Goldfinch eat the seeds to a limited extent. Many mammalian herbivores eat this plant, particularly during the early stages of growth and development. This includes the White-Tailed Deer, Cottontail Rabbit, Muskrats, and livestock. The latter tend to leave this plant alone when there are other sources of food available.
In this shot, you can see the tall stem and leaves of cup plant (nature’s birdbath) next to stiff goldenrod and purple aster.
Here’s a view from above of a stiff goldenrod blooming next to a cup plant that has already lost petals from its many flowers.